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The Books I Read Since August

Books Read since August

Welcome to 2017! Like many people, I am happy to be leaving the dumpster fire of 2016 behind and moving ahead to a new year which, I hope, will not be as terrible.

I thought about just jumping back into blogging in the new year, but decided I didn’t want to move on to new things until I had a brief chance to recap some old things. I want to have a record of what I read last year, a place where I could at least look back and know what words I filled my brain and my heart with during this awful, dark time.

So, without further ado, here’s my list of the books I’ve read since August when my world got turned upside down:

  1. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
  2. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
  3. The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  4. Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy
  5. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  6. Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler
  7. Redshirts by John Scalzi
  8. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  9. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  10. Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Riez
  11. The Wangs Versus the World by Jade Cheng
  12. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Raculla
  13. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  14. Victoria by Julia Baird
  15. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
  16. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
  17. It’s Ok to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort
  18. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

Looking back on that list, it seems clear that my reading since August had been… Sporadic? Comforting? Disjointed? Easy? Probably a little bit of all of those things.

I don’t remember much about many of these books. I read them in a haze, or listened to them during my multi-hour commutes, or picked in and out of them over several weeks (or, in the case of Victoria, months) until I could jot them down on a page in my notebook. Finishing a book has felt a bit like finding my way back to myself and the person I used to be, even if I also know I don’t ever really get to be that person again.

It’s probably not surprising that I turned to young adult books over the last few months. There’s something comforting about teenage problems and something optimistic about first love that I found soothing. I remember relying heavily on YA audio books to get through some long drives, and other big YA titles to serve as distractions when I needed them – highlights were Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir, and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

Another trend was audiobooks by funny ladies. In August, September and October I was commuting about 50 miles to work each direction, necessitating lots of audiobooks and podcasts. The best books on audio tended to be essay collections narrated by funny women, I think because they felt like podcasts and could hold my wandering attention. Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler was excellent, and I did a deep dive into You Must Remember This, a podcast on Old Hollywood by Karina Longworth.  

Looking at the list, I’m a little surprised that I managed to also read some actual adult fiction. Nothing deep, but a few titles that felt like they were leading me back to the stories I tend to love. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby was a perfect distraction, and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld scratched a political itch I didn’t know I had.

And finally, I read a bunch of books about grief and recovery and death and how you move on from the loss of your partner when you’re young. Some were more obvious – It’s Ok to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort basically felt like it was putting my heart and mind on the page. But others, like Victoria by Julia Baird and Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley and The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, came at it in slightly different directions. I’d recommend them all, though for slightly different reasons.

I’m not sure what my reading in 2017 is going to look like. I don’t have any goals or specific plans, other than trying to focus on reading what I want and rediscovering the things that I love. I still don’t know where the blog fits into all of that, but I’m hoping it starts to feel like a necessary part of my life once again soon.

But enough about me, how are you? What was the best book you read last year? What books are you anticipating for this year? This disconnected blogger desperately wants to hear!

And a Bonus Announcement!

In case you missed the news, I’m going to be slightly expanding my role at Book Riot. I’ll be editing and writing a twice-monthly nonfiction newsletter, True Story, beginning on Jan. 20. If you follow this link to sign up you’ll be entered in a giveaway for some pretty exciting nonfiction titles. I hope you’ll invite me to your inbox.

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Working Through the Unimaginable

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I don’t know how to start this post. Words continue to feel inadequate, and they’re really hard for me to put together. But I miss this space, and everything in my life that goes with it, so I’m going to try. Consider this update one tiny step towards finding my new normal.

I am… reading. Just a little bit, and mostly things that are distracting rather than difficult. I loved Leigh Bardugo’s newest book, Crooked Kingdom. Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl was charming and easy. Erika Johansen’s The Fate of the Tearling (out in late November) was an ambitious page-turner, while also being a bit of a mess. Today, I’m in the middle of Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody and Julia Baird’s Victoria: The Queen (also a late November release). Most of my books are still in boxes, but having a more limited selection is good right now.

I am… listening. For the moment, my commute to work is 43 miles, which takes approximately 50 minutes, depending on traffic. I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books — A Torch Against the Night by Savaa Tahir, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler, and Redshirts by John Scalzi. For the last week or so, I’ve been deep-diving into You Must Remember This, a podcast on the hidden or forgotten stories of old Hollywood. Thanks, everyone, for the recommendations — I have a lot of good listening ahead.

I am… grieving. We had two memorial services for Nate, one in Wisconsin where he grew up and one in Minnesota where we most recently lived. Both were awful and good and hard and needed.

I am… talking. I’ve met twice with a therapist, something that has been one of the best things I could do. It helps to have someone who doesn’t really know me to acknowledge what has happened is awful, while also keeping me from spinning out in all directions. I leave my appointments with a mantra… Be kind to yourself. Grief takes patience. Live in the moment.

I am… working. I’ve been at my new job for about six weeks. It’s very similar to what I was doing before, and I appreciate that familiarity. But it’s also a new community, new coworkers, new ways of doing old things… some days I feel good about the newness, and other days I want to rewind and go back to the way things were two months ago.

I am… lonely. This is a new feeling. I have a wonderful network of friends and family around me who are doing everything they can to help, often more than I could ever expect, but Nate was my person. He was the person I shared my days with, the person I complained to and celebrated with, the person who opened pickle jars and helped decide what to have for dinner and split the driving and made me laugh for no reason. I miss him.

I am… grateful. I don’t think a day has gone by since Nate died that I haven’t gotten a card, email, text message, phone call, or Facebook message from friends who are both near and far. Those connections, even when they seem small, have meant the world to me and I’m profoundly thankful for them. They help me feel less lonely.

I am… writing. Speaking of being thankful… I have an enormous list of thank you cards to start writing. I’ve been putting it off for awhile because I’m still so emotionally fragile right now. But getting some of them off my list of projects will be a good thing, so I’m going to try and get started today.

Thanks for reading and commenting and holding me in your thoughts. I miss blogging, and I hope I can get back into the habit soon.

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There Are Moments That The Words Don’t Reach

clouds

Dear friends – You may have noticed that the blog has been silent for quite awhile. I wish it were for happy reasons – no time for reading or writing because of our move and the excitement of my new job – but that’s not the case.

Nate Hebert, often known as “the boyfriend” here on the blog, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, Aug. 14 at our home. He was 35 years old.

I won’t share the details of how he died here, in part because the police are still investigating and in part because he was a private person who wouldn’t have wanted me to do that – there’s a reason he didn’t come up often when I was writing here. Suffice it to say that I know in my heart his death was an accident.

Nate and I were together for nearly eight years, just slightly less time than this blog has been around. Our first date involved watching the 2008 election returns, then going out for a drink on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin to watch the students celebrate. Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I loved him and respected his intelligence, curiosity, and commitment to building our life together. I was so proud when he showed persistence to get his most recent job as a welder, and so excited when it became clear that welding was among his many unexpected talents. He will be missed so very much.

I took the picture at the top of this post on Saturday, Aug. 13, the day before he died, because I thought the sky was beautiful. In taking it, I inadvertently captured one of the last moments when my life seemed to make sense.

There have been so many surreal things about this experience, moments where I catch my breath at something that reminds me of Nate or I get pulled into the minutiae of setting up memorials and memorial funds and I can’t believe this is life right now.

I wonder, in those moments, if I will ever get to feel normal again. I wonder if I will be able to be a person who doesn’t cry every day out of sadness of having lost, so suddenly, someone I loved so much; out of anger for having our plans fall apart so spectacularly; or out of fear that I am somehow damaged beyond repair by a trauma I don’t have the words to explain.

For the moment, I am living back home with my parents, commuting about an hour to my new job and trying to wrap my head around what comes next. I don’t want to let this space disappear – Nate was so supportive and excited about everything that blogging brought to my life – but at the moment I can’t see through to a time when writing about books and reading and life will make any sense. So for now, consider this blog on hiatus while I try to find my way through the long, hard process of grieving.

I waited a long time to post about Nate’s death here because it’s been hard, almost impossible, for me to broadcast this awful thing out into the world and accept the kindness that has come my way in response. He was so young and so loved and I am brokenhearted that he is gone. But I am also so lucky to have such a wide-ranging community of friends in person and online to help share the burden of his passing and celebrate the joy of his life.

Your good thoughts and prayers and caring words are appreciated more than I can say, even if, for the moment, I don’t have the emotional capacity to reach back and say thank you.

With sorrow and love, Kim

nate and kim

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Genre Kryptonite: Adding X-Men to Anything

Genre Kryptonite X-Men

I try to be a savvy reader who isn’t tricked into picking up books based simply on marketing copy. Sorry, book PR people, but I don’t let your schemes work on me… except when the blurbs or cover copy describe a book as “X-Men plus…” just about anything. I will pick up a book where normal people have some sort of mutant power almost without question, and I will likely love it unreservedly.

I wrote about a few of my favorite X-Men spiked titles over at Book Riot — I hope you’ll check it out!

P.S. And for those who are curious, I’m working on a recap of our Portland adventures to go up sometime next week. It was such a stellar trip, and I’m already working on the list of sites we didn’t get to visit on this vacation.

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july 2016 reading wrap up

After a very slumpy month of reading in June, it seems like my energy came back this month. Thanks to the Fourth of July weekend and a mini-readathon a couple weeks ago, I managed to finish seven books this month and, in an exciting twist, I even managed to review four of them, like an actual book blogger!

Here’s what I finished in July:

  1. Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam (fiction)
  2. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (fiction)
  3. You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein (essays)
  4. Something New by Lucy Knisley (memoir)
  5. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (fiction)
  6. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (memoir)
  7. In the Country We Love by Diane Gurrero (memoir)

On the whole, the month was pretty excellent when it comes to reading choices. I like the mix of fiction and nonfiction, and the books touched on a lot of my favorite topics — it’s tough to pick top reads for the month.

A Look to August 

With our move coming up in just a couple of weeks, I can honestly say I have no idea what my August reading might look like. I am hoping to finish For Love of Politics by Sally Bedell Smith, a look at Bill and Hillary Clinton’s time in the White House, before we go, since I need to return it to the library!

The other work of nonfiction I’m looking forward to this month is Riverine by Angela Palm (Aug. 16 from Graywolf Press), the most recent winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. Past winners of this prize have included two books I loved — Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean and The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Needless to say, I’ve got high hopes for Riverine. Happy reading!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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